David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: On final count, Delhi tops the table


So New Zealand got the ending it wanted from the Commonwealth Games: a sixth gold medal and achieved with a dramatic, exhilarating flourish on the netball court against their fiercest rivals.

Among the many sights during and just after the final against Australia were the large groups of Indian fans chanting, "Kiwi, Kiwi."

New Zealand, and its people, are popular in India.

"Where are you from?" was a question asked on a daily basis. "Ah, New Zealand. A nice country."

There is a warmth about the Indian people. They were proud to be hosting the 19th edition of the Games. They wanted it to succeed and have it remembered fondly by the thousands of visitors.

The verdicts on the Games are being reached. The great shame for the people of Delhi is that they were badly let down by organisers who, bluntly, did a rotten job.

The impressive Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, has promised an inquiry into what went on in the preparations. Heads will roll, it is said.

It won't matter because it's what happened during the Games that counts, not the postscript.

For all that, the organisation in many respects was a disaster - if those in authority had stopped sitting on their hands and bickering even three months earlier, they would most likely have ironed out the wrinkles that cast frowns across the Games operations. Delhi and India deserved far better than what Suresh Kalmadi and his cronies on the organising body delivered.

India wants to host the Olympic Games. Maybe in time; certainly not in 2020, which has been mooted.

You certainly could not point to these Games and claim them as proof positive of India's capability of holding an Olympics.

On the field, so to speak, they were a triumph for the host nation. They wanted 100 medals, wanted to finish second on the gold medal chart, and did so.

A badminton gold in the final event on Thursday was their 38th, eclipsing England's 37; India finished with 101 medals.

The sheer delight with which the Indians greeted the successes of their compatriots was heart-warming.

If you wanted one image to take away, you couldn't do better than India beating England on penalty strokes on a hot night to make the men's hockey final before a packed house in one of its favourite sports.

You had to be a first-rate churl not to savour their exhilaration at that moment and others, such as when they swept the podium in the women's discus final.

And what of New Zealand?

Four of the six gold medals came in team events - netball, rugby, fullbore shooting pairs and doubles squash. Cyclist Alison Shanks and shot putter Valerie Adams rounded things out.

A total of 36 medals exceeded by four Melbourne's disappointing return in 2006, but is well down on the 45 of Manchester eight years ago.

The best New Zealand moment? It's hard to top the netball denouement for edge-of-the-seat, nerve-wrenching tension. It was the best of many marvellous contests between the nations. It could have gone either way and ended in tears of delight and despair.

A final thought. Those who tried to judge these Games by Western standards have got it wrong. This is India, with all its heat, dust and chaos. There were testing times when patience was required in abundance.

It could have been better, and would have been, had the people not been let down by those entrusted with the Games' operation.

Shame on them, but remembering all the gloomy forecasts, the security and health fears, the Delhi Games succeeded. Just.

- NZ Herald

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